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Luya Foods, the Swiss startup turning tofu waste into vegan meat, has raised seed funding to enter the retail market. It also plans to use the capital to scale production and ramp up R&D, after having initially debuted its natural plant-based chunks and burger patties in foodservice.
Luya Foods has announced an undisclosed seed funding round led by Redalpine Venture Partners, an early-stage tech investor based in Zürich that lists mushroom protein startup Mushlabs and trading platform Robinhood among its portfolio companies. The startup, a spinout of Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH), has previously received investment from Gebert Rüf Stiftung and VentureKick.
Turning okara into plant-based meat
Founded this year, Luya turns organic okara, the high-fibre and high-protein byproduct of tofu and soy milk production, into plant-based protein substitutes. After rescuing the okara and diverting it from landfills, the company uses a patented fermentation technology process to turn it into novel vegan foods.
Its first products, which debuted in select restaurants in Switzerland earlier in July, are Luya Okara Chunks and Luya Okara Burgers. Both are 100% plant-based, contain no highly processed protein isolates, additives, or artificial flavourings.
Luya says that the new funding will help them scale up production ahead of its planned retail market entry in 2022. The capital will also enable the team to double down on R&D, strengthening its fermentation platform and expanding its range to include products such as slices.
Luya to go international
Aside from growing its range, the company has bold ambitions to become a leading plant-based player globally. It says that it wants to bring its okara-based natural protein substitutes to international markets after its retail launch in Switzerland.
“We are thrilled to have secured the necessary capital to introduce Luya to the Swiss market, prepare our international expansion,” said co-founder Flavio Hagenbuch. “[It will] accelerate our mission to define a new category in the space of alternatives to meat with our natural and organic products.”
Luya’s emphasis on natural plant protein is likely to help it stand out amongst its other vegan meat competitors, especially amid the clean label trend. As the plant-based market matures, more shoppers are staying away from overly-processed ingredients and saturated fats, prompting players like Beyond Meat to change its famous burger recipe with significantly less fat and calories.
Another selling point for the firm is its food waste approach, appealing to sustainability-minded shoppers. Other startups that have taken to upcycling food waste into vegan foods includes Hawaii-based Cajú Love, which has sourced cashew fruit waste from the nut and juice industry into a whole food meat alternative. Los Angeles’ Grounded Foods uses “ugly” cauliflower and hemp seeds to create its range of plant-based cheese.
All images courtesy of Luya Foods.